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3 things we learned from France v. Switzerland

Pro Soccer Talk share their EURO 2020 frontrunners, including an England team with massive homefield advantages at Wembley.

France and Switzerland delivered Monday’s second instant classic in the round of 16 at EURO 2020, as the reigning world champions threw away a 3-1 lead and were sent home after Kylian Mbappe was denied by Yann Sommer in the penalty shootout.

[ MORE: EURO 2020 hub ]

Karim Benzema scored twice and Paul Pogba struck the best of the six regular-time goals, but Haris Seferovic (twice) and Mario Gavranovic managed to cancel them out to extend the game another 30 minutes. After four and a half rounds of unstoppable penalty kicks, Mbappe was turned away to end a never-ending thriller.

Up next for Switzerland is a quarterfinal clash with Spain, in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Friday (12 pm ET).

Three things we learned: France - Switzerland

1. Curveball from Deschamps: For 45 minutes, France played with a back-three (for the first time all tournament) with midfielder Adrien Rabiot at left wing back. The tactical change appeared to break France’s rhythm as they got off to a shockingly slow start. Deschamps effectively admitted his error at halftime, as he brought off Clement Lenglet, who had a nightmare of a first half, for Kingsley Coman, thus returning to a four-man backline.

2. 25 minutes of French dominance: Did the change work? Did the change work? After a brief blip on the radar (penalty kick given away, but saved) to begin the second half, it was all France — and we do mean, it was all France — until Switzerland hit back out of nowhere 10 minutes before full-time. It’s probably worth noting once again that for all of the incredible talent France possess in their squad, Deschamps remains the greatest road block to winning a second straight major tournament. They seemingly won the 2018 World Cup despite his best efforts otherwise, but can they do it again?

3. In conclusion, absolute chaos: Upon retreating deeper and deeper as they tried to defend their two-goal lead, all France really did was give Switzerland just enough time and space in the middle third to retain the ball and progress it into the final third. The comeback goals came from a desperate cross and quickly played ball straight through the heart of midfield, and France were woefully unprepared to deal with either one.

Man of the match: Karim Benzema - He scored twice, but who cares? This might be the greatest first touch of all time.

Switzerland needed just a quarter-hour to take their lead, delivering a heavy blow and a thunderous warning shot to France in the process (WATCH HERE - VIDEO). Steven Zuber, one of the unheralded stars of the tournament thus far, served up a tantalizing cross for Seferovic and Lenglet was lost at sea as the man he was to be marking headed past Hugo Lloris for 1-0.

Disaster very nearly struck for France 10 minutes into the second half, as Switzerland were awarded a penalty kick after video review revealed that Benjamin Pavard slid through Zuber. Captain Lloris had other ideas, though, springing all the way to his right-hand post and pushing Ricardo Rodriguez’s spot kick wide of the goal.

The penalty save was the turning point of all turning points, lighting the fuse that Les Bleus simply couldn’t find in the first half. Within two minutes of Lloris’s save at one end, Benzema was cleverly corralling a through ball from Kylian Mbappe and lifting it over Sommer at the other.

Two minutes after Benzema’s first came Benzema’s second. Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann combined on a silky smooth sequence atop the penalty area, and though Griezmann’s shot was saved, the ball went high into the air and fell to Benzema all by his lonesome at the back post. Then, a moment of incredible magic from Pogba.

Switzerland pulled a goal back on 81 minutes, again off the head of Seferovic, in a momentary lapse by France’s defense. Three minutes later, the ball was in the back of France’s net again. Just one problem…

There was, of course, one final twist in the tale of France - Switzerland, and it didn’t play out until the 90th minute. Gavranovic received an ambitious ball from Granit Xhaka, turned toward goal and fired from just outside the box. Lloris could get nowhere near the arrow placed just inside the bottom corner.

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